As of this writing, it remains to be seen what effect the latest John Bolton revelation — that the former national security adviser claims in the manuscript of an upcoming book that he was told directly by President Trump the Ukrainians would not get $391 million in congressionally-approved aid without a public commitment to investigations of the Bidens — will have on the impeachment trial of the president.
But it remains more likely than not that the trial is in its final days as Republican senators, desperate to keep the full truth from coming out, are likely to kill any chance of the Senate and the American people hearing from vital witnesses to the president’s scheme.
The president will be acquitted. That is guaranteed. And it will almost certainly happen by the time he sits down for his Super Bowl Sunday interview with cheerleader Sean Hannity. If not by then, it will definitely happen by the time he arrives in the House chamber on Tuesday, Feb. 4, to deliver the State of the Union address.
But before the trial does end, we should all send our thoughts and prayers to GOP senators and respect their delicate feelings, which were apparently shredded by lead House manager Adam Schiff.
During his closing remarks on the final day of the managers’ opening arguments, Schiff cited a CBS report that GOP senators, according to a confidant of the president, had been told, “Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.”
That apparently sparked a rush to the fainting couches by GOP senators overcome with feigned outrage. Schiff clearly struck a nerve, but it wasn’t an unexpected response from people who have lost their backbone and were in a way being publicly shamed.
On a deeper level, whether or not the exact phrase “head on a pike was used,” they know it’s true. There is no room in the Republican Party today for Trump critics. Even the gentlest of criticisms (Mitt Romney, Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, etc.) promptly elicits his backlash in press gaggles, at rallies and on Twitter. He expects unyielding loyalty.
Take the recent example of Florida congressman Matt Gaetz. One would be hard-pressed to find a stauncher Trump proponent in Congress than Gaetz who, throughout the impeachment process, defended the president loudly with all the bluster and bravado of a spoiled, arrogant frat boy. It was Gaetz who led the Brooks Brothers riot-style, Pickett’s Charge-like siege of House Freedom Caucus members to try to storm the secured facility (the secret bunkers!) where impeachment inquiry witness depositions were taking place.
So it was a surprise to most who have followed this process closely that he was left off the list of GOP House members selected to aid in the president’s impeachment defense effort during the trial without any real explanation. The most likely reason, as Gaetz professed, was his support for a House resolution limiting the president’s ability to plunge us into a bloody, regional war with Iran without congressional approval.
It’s more likely that Gaetz was put in “timeout,” and will remain a strong ally going forward, but GOP senators who dare to go against the president in any way in the impeachment trial may not be as lucky. Several of those senators are facing tough re-election fights this year, including Susan Collins of Maine, who likes to cast herself as an independent-minded politician and often says she is “troubled” by things the presidents says and does.
One might have expected Collins to be “troubled” by the reams of factual, documentary evidence of the president’s wrongdoing put forward to the Senate by the House managers last week. Instead, she was more bothered by House manager Jerry Nadler telling Senate Republicans they would be complicit in a cover-up if they blocked crucial witnesses from testifying in a trial, to the point where she sent a note to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, the presiding officer, who then admonished both sides about how they should address “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
And while Collins complained openly about Schiff referencing the CBS report, she was nowhere to be found Sunday morning when the president fired off this tweet: “Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”
What “price” is he talking about?
Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who huffed and puffed to make sure everyone knew he was “visibly upset” with Schiff, took no issue with a tweet that in normal times would spell the end of a presidency or at least a Senate censure of the president who made such a statement.
But let’s not kid ourselves. Today’s GOP has an established pattern of selective outrage.
Whether or not these senators want to hear it, they know they’ve sat through a trial where there has already been clear and convincing evidence put forward that the president violated his oath by putting his personal and political interests over the national security interests of the country. And they know clear and convincing evidence has been put forward that the president, with the help of his enablers within the administration, Justice Department and Congress, has done everything he can to obstruct the investigation.
They know there has been no substantive defense put forward based on the merits of his actions — just lies, hysterics and Ken Starr murdering irony — and they know that every single new piece of evidence and information that does come out further implicates the president. Nothing new ever moves the needle toward exonerating him.
The Bolton bombshell is another drop in that bucket, and attention now turns to whether Republicans will give the country a fair trial. They know what Trump did is wrong and a betrayal of the Constitution. They know how uniquely awful he is. And nevertheless, most if not all of them are prepared to bypass reason and logic and let him walk. They’re so terrified of him and his hardcore base that they’ll refuse to hold him accountable. Their honor is gone.
Cognizant of that, Schiff last Thursday made an emotional, but ultimately a likely fruitless appeal for them to put their country first.
Over the next nine months, post-acquittal, as more information surrounding Trump’s conduct inevitably makes its way into the public sphere, Collins and others will have to answer to their constituents. And it will be up to the voters to hold them accountable.
If the voters decide their time’s up, I just hope it doesn’t hurt their feelings too much.